On Sunday, Bosnia Serbs voted in a referendum in Bosnia and Herzegovina to keep a national holiday: Statehood Holiday. In a region devastated by sectarian warfare, any references to the bloody three-year civil war are bound to be sensitive matters. The Bosnians and Croats oppose this Serbian holiday, which clearly discriminates against other ethnic groups in the region. Bosnia’s high court ruled the referendum illegal, and both the United States and the European Union had put pressure on the Serb Republic to cancel the referendum. Leaders fear that this referendum could incite political violence and spark another ethnic war.

However, with a voting rate as high as 60%, the Serb Republic voted with a 99.8% support for this national holiday. There is not evidence of voter fraud or rigged ballots. Despite the discriminatory nature of the holiday, and the vast domestic and international criticism, this is the result of a democratically-held vote. In a world where we value the voice of the people, what do we do when the people choose something that is seen as morally wrong? In this case, is it within the rights of the minority to invalidate the legitimate vote of the majority?

Sometimes the voice of the people support a public policy that is against moral or international laws. When this is the case, we are faced with the difficult decision as to whether democracies have the right to be wrong. Is the voice of the people the greatest legitimizer of laws, or is there a higher law? If a country’s majority votes to commit genocide, we would certainly intervene. However, if a country’s majority votes to keep out refugees, condemning them to the danger of living in a warzone, is that vote seen as legitimate?

The Serb referendum raises an interesting question about the fallacies of democracy and how they can be overcome so that the rights of the minorities are not trampled on under the will of the majority.
Read full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/26/world/europe/bosnian-serbs-holiday-vote.html